Category Archives: Passages

Balancing the Polls

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Your Other Name

If your life doesn’t often make you feel
like a cauldron of swirling light –
 
If you are not often enough a woman standing above a mysterious fire,
lifting her head to the sky –
 
You are doing too much, and listening too little.
 
Read poems. Walk in the woods. Make slow art.
Tie a rope around your heart, be led by it off the plank,
happy prisoner.
 
You are no animal. You are galaxy with skin.
Home to blue and yellow lightshots,
making speed-of-light curves and racecar turns,
bouncing in ricochet –
 
Don’t slow down the light and turn it into matter
with feeble preoccupations.
 
Don’t forget your true name:
Presiding one. Home for the gleaming. Strong cauldron for the feast of light. 
 
Strong cauldron for the feast of light:
I am speaking to you.
I beg you not to forget.

–Tara Sophia Mohr

This morning I had the great pleasure of experiencing another one of Elena Brower’s extraordinary classes on yogaglo.  The class was called: Cultivate a Deep and Generous Connection to Your Self.  During the class, Elena stated: “We create a very strong & clear vessel, with boundaries, with sweetness, with crazy amounts of courtesy.  And then, inside, is softness and listening and receptivity…”

At the end of class, she shared the poem above.

The practice was perfection.  Her words, as always, timely.  You see, today the world is in a state of upheaval.  It feels a bit like standing on the middle of a giant seesaw.  There are a lot of people on both sides and I am stuck in the middle trying to find some balance.  I didn’t want to feel defensive or on edge.  I made sure to take the time this morning to cultivate that necessary equilibrium on the inside.  Firmly rooted and connected, with a deep remembrance of who I am, I can walk through the swirling voices, opinions, and signs.  From a place of spaciousness and softness, I now go out into the world to vote my truth.

I hope you do too : )

Let the Rain

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On the Other Side

     When I sustained a serious wrist injury during a yoga workshop, it was a hard lesson to learn.  It required surgery and months of rehabilitation.  Students would arrive at my classes and upon realizing that the person in the cast/brace was the instructor, they would inquire if they were in the right place.  I found this question mildly amusing due to the fact that during the whole process, from injury, to surgery, to healing, I would frequently ask myself the same question.
     The forecast for this entire week was, originally, all rain.  Even though the earth desperately needed this forecast, I did not.  I was not happy.  Saturday morning I began to feel a bit “under the weather” (pun intended).  By Sunday I had a full-blown cold and my mood continued to deteriorate.  I was sullen about the rain, my cold made me irritable, and I was downright furious that I was grumpy.  This morning, I decided to try a different tactic and to just let everything be as it is.  I stopped trying to resist my mood and gave myself permission to get a little rough-and-tumble with my dark side.  I also began to entertain the idea that a low-key week with plenty of precipitation might be just what I needed.  Ironically enough, both my disposition and the sky began to lighten as I made this shift.
Rumi’s Poem “The Guest House” says it all so eloquently:
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

     The inability to get into a certain posture, the injury, the illness, the weather, the bad mood…these things are not the problem.  It is our resistance to them that creates the problem.  Our struggle with the the things that we have the inability to change or control simply stand to make matters worse.  When we are in the middle of these circumstances, it can be challenging to find the switch, to change our sign from “closed” to “open”.  The illnesses can be severe and the storms can be devastating.  The clearing out process can be painful and finding gratitude for that discomfort can be difficult.
My Grandmother use to say: “Let go and let God.”  I say, let the rain.
 

Yoga, Community, and New Beginnings

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Our Practice Space

The word Sādhana can be translated as “practice” or a discipline undertaken in the pursuit of a goal.  Yogi Bhajan has said: “The strength of a community is directly proportional to the strength of their group Sādhana.”   The Sanskrit Word for Community is Sangha.  These past few months I have witnessed our Sangha, our community, flourish and expand in our new space.  Their dedication and enthusiasm is inspirational.  Their strength and grace is exquisite.

In the Anusara Teacher Training Manual, John Friend explains: “Our Attitude is what distinguishes us and transforms us.  The power of the heart that is the force behind every action or expression in an asana (posture) resides within Attitude.  Attitude is both the power behind your intention for practicing hatha yoga and the power that ultimately fulfills your intention.  You might do the practice of hatha yoga to improve the health or appearance of the physical body, or to clear blocked emotions and help balance your emotional state, or to promote mental clarity and balance, or any combination of these purposes.  Intertwined with Attitude and intention is willpower–a deep inner force that is a balance between self-effort and the ability to surrender.”

As 2011 draws to a close, we have the opportunity to make some decisions about what we will choose to let go of and what we will carry with us into the new year.  Through the practice of Yoga, we may be more capable of discerning where to apply effort and when to pull in the oars.  We also have the power to create intentions.  Intentions that can be cultivated with attitude, willpower, and practice.

“Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning…”

What are your intentions for 2012?

For a New Beginning

By John O’Donohue
(1956 – 2008)

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

Shake It Off

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“And I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t
So here’s to drinks in the dark at the end of my road
And I’m ready to suffer and I’m ready to hope
It’s a shot in the dark and right at my throat
Cause looking for heaven, for the devil in me
Looking for heaven, for the devil in me
Well what the hell I’m gonna let it happen to me…”

My Yoga Practice has changed my life in some very profound ways.  My Yoga Practice has transformed into a Life Practice.  It has rolled right off of my mat along with me and followed me into some rough and dark terrain.  It has remained faithful to me and held a candle up to light the path back when I have lost my way.  It has helped teach me how important it is to be fully present in every moment.  Yoga has shown me the how and the why and the way.  When you practice Yoga it is like cleaning house.  Eventually you get finished with the surface stuff and start to dig a little deeper.  Unearthing an experience, excavating a memory, confronting a habit, taking it out and dusting it off.  If it’s broken, taking a long hard look, deciding if it’s worth fixing, worth hanging on to.  Perhaps looking a little deeper and making the decision that it is time to let go and get rid of it altogether.  When you clear out the clutter of your body, you can’t help but clear out the clutter of your subconscious at the same time.

Life can be chaotic.  We can get so caught up in getting through that we are perpetually in the surface realm of things.  Stuff piles up, we bury things, and tuck them away for a more convenient time.  Physical and emotional things.  Yoga gives you the strength and stamina to take on and tackle those things in life that scare you the most.  It provides you with the tools you need and the patience to try again when you don’t get it right the first time.  Your practice helps illuminate those corners that are the darkest and most frightening.  Rather than turning away from and avoiding discomfort, you will face it head on.  You will chase those things down that make you the most uncomfortable because you want to be free!

A short time ago Elena Brower shared a poem on her blog called “Shake the Dust”.  It was written by Anis Mojgani.  Elena’s teachings always seem particularly timely and poignant…

When I find myself becoming burdened or weighted down, I reread these words:

“Do not let one moment go by that doesn’t remind you that your heart beats 100,000 times a day and that there are enough gallons of blood to make every one of you oceans. Do not settle for letting these waves settle and the dust to collect in your veins.

Walk into it, breathe it in, let it crash through the halls of your arms at the millions of years of millions of poets coursing like blood pumping and pushing making you live, shaking the dust so when the world knocks at your front door, clutch the knob and open on up, running forward into its widespread greeting arms with your hands in front of you, fingertips trembling though they may be.”

Thank you Anis for writing these powerful words!  Thank you, Elena, for sharing them!  These words have become my mantra.  I am filled with gratitude for my teachers and for the practice of Yoga.

Be free!  Shake the dust!

Fire

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“Fire burning me up
Desire taking me so much higher
And leaving me whole”~Augustana

It has been a particularly long month full of circumstances and situations that have been challenging and uncomfortable.  It has been sprinkled with difficult conversations that I simply could not put off any longer.  My Yoga Practice has allowed me to arrive, on the other side of these events and discussions, in a better place.

Ode Magazine recently published an article called “Championing difficult conversations: It’s not what you say, but how“.  The author, John Kinyon, states: “The human mind, I believe, often wants the peace and security of knowing – as much as possible and ahead of time – what to do.”  This, of course, is unrealistic.  The more time and energy we waste getting caught up in all of the different possibilities and outcomes, the less strength and integrity we possess when actually having the conversation or interaction.  He suggests that one way, perhaps a better way, to have a difficult conversation is to “focus on the how, the process through which knowing what to say and do next can arise out of the present moment, independent (but also inclusive) of one’s worldview, value system and role.”

This is what Yoga prepares us to do.  We learn that with breath, compassion, and honesty we can see ourselves through challenging practices with beauty and grace.  Our practice teaches us to “sit in the fire of the heart”.  Danny Arguetty talks about this In “nourishing the teacher”.  He writes:  “Giving ourselves permission to be present with uncomfortable and intense situations, though often difficult in the moment, is ultimately of tremendous value.”

If you are able to be present, you can place yourself in a less reactionary state of mind and being.  Take a few deep breaths as you witness what comes up for you.  In that pause we are often able to find clarity and we are able to decipher skillful action.

Danny also shares this powerful and pertinent poem from Rumi:

“A chickpea leaps almost over the rim of the pot

where it’s being boiled.

“Why are you doing this to me?”

The cook knocks him down with the ladle.

“Don’t you try to jump out.
You think I’m torturing you.
I’m giving you flavor,
so you can mix with spices and rice
and be the lovely vitality of a human being.

Remember when you drank rain in the garden.
That was for this.”

Grace first. Sexual pleasure,
then a boiling new life begins,
and the Friend has something good to eat.

Eventually the chickpea
will say to the cook,
“Boil me some more.
Hit me with the skimming spoon.
I can’t do this by myself.

I’m like an elephant that dreams of gardens
back in Hindustan and doesn’t pay attention
to his driver. You’re my cook, my driver,
my way into existence. I love your cooking.”

The cook says,
“ I was once like you,
fresh from the ground. Then I boiled in time
and boiled in the body, two fierce boilings.

My animal soul grew powerful.
I controlled it with practices.
and boiled some more, and boiled
once beyond that,
and became your teacher.”

I am grateful for my practice, my teachers, boiling, and the fire.  I am also grateful for my discipleship, for being a chickpea : )

Fire

If my heart were a garden…

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“If my heart were a garden, it would be in bloom with roses and wrinkly Indian poppies and wild flowers.  There would be two unmarked tracts of scorched earth, and scattered headstones covered with weeds and ivy and moss, a functioning compost pile, great tangles of black-berry bushes, and some piles of trash I’ve meant to haul away for many years.” Anne Lamott